The Role of Shockwaves in the Enhancement of Bone Repair – From Basic Principles to Clinical Application

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a treatment modality, originally introduced into the clinic as lithotripsie, which has also been successfully used in the last two decades in the non-invasive treatment of delayed or non-healing fractures. Initially, the mechanism of action was attributed to microfracture- induced repair, but intensive basic research has now shown that the shockwave generates its effect in tissue via mechanotransduction. Numerous signal transduction pathways have already been demon- strated, which in their entirety trigger an endogenous regeneration process via cell proliferation, migra- tion and differentiation. Clinically, these shockwave-conveyed biological signals support healing of acute, delayed and non-union fractures. The attainable outcome is comparable to surgery but avoiding an open approach with associated potential complications. These advantageous properties with a clearly positive cost-benefit ratio make shockwave therapy a first line treatment in delayed and non-union fractures.

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